Written by R.E. Lord

BMW Megacity ActiveEThe BMW Group’s long-term plans to mass produce an electric car sped forward a bit recently when the luxury automaker invested more than half a billion dollars to expand its Leipzig facility, where it plans to build its Megacity Vehicle (MCV) series -- the “world’s first volume-produced car with a passenger compartment made from lightweight CFRP [Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer].”

The company says it will first produce the ActiveE at the Leipzig plant. Expected sometime in 2011, the ActiveE will be the company’s second foray into the increasingly competitive world of zero-emissions electric cars. The first, the Mini E, is currently being field-tested around the world.

“The knowledge gained with the MINI E and BMW ActiveE is channeled directly into the series development of the MCV,” the company said in statement. “All of which means that from 2011, Leipzig will be a center of expertise for the production of electric cars within the BMW Group’s worldwide network.”

The ActiveE will be able to travel about 100 miles on a charge, with a top speed of 90 miles an hour, the New York Times reported in September. New York, Boston, San Francisco and San Diego will likely be test markets for the car, according to the newspaper.

“By producing the Megacity Vehicle in Germany the BMW Group is demonstrating a clear commitment to Germany as a high-tech location,” said BMW AG Chairman Norbert Reithofer in a statement. “With this vehicle we are revolutionising automotive design and production, and offering our customers the first purpose-built electric vehicle for urban areas. This will be the world’s first volume-produced car with a passenger compartment made from lightweight CFRP [Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer], as less weight enables a longer range.”

Toward that end, BMW joined with the SGL Group in April to make ultra light weight carbon fiber-reinforced plastics at a plant in Moses Lake, WA. The fibers manufactured at Moses Lake will be used exclusively for the Megacity Vehicle, the companies said.

“The Megacity Vehicle is a revolutionary automobile,” said Klaus Draeger, Member of the Board of Management for Development, in a statement. “It will be the world’s first volume-produced vehicle with a passenger cell made from carbon. Our LifeDrive architecture is helping us to open a new chapter in automotive lightweight design. Indeed, this concept allows us to practically offset the extra 250 to 350 kilograms of weight typically found in electrically powered vehicles.”